“Stop in anytime!”
“My door is always open.”
I’ve never felt comfortable with these kinds of open invitations. They’re much too vague and raise way too many doubts for me. What if I choose a bad time? What if they don’t really mean it? Maybe I’ll put it off for now. They’re not really expecting me, so I won’t go today. It becomes too easy to let time fall away and never really take advantage of the invitation.
I’ve always preferred something more formal. An invitation addressed specifically to me with a specific date/time and specific details of the event so I know what to expect. (As you can see, I’m big on specifics!)
As we begin this holy season of Lent, we are told that God invites us into an intimate relationship with Him. Again, this sounds a bit vague. How do we take advantage of this invitation? When and where do we show up? What is expected of us?
Today’s Ash Wednesday blog post is my attempt to make God’s invitation a bit more personal and… specific!
Make no mistake… God is directing this invitation to YOU. Not to a general group of chosen people to which you may or may not feel you belong—but to you. Our Lord says: “I have called you by name. You are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) God promises that He will never forget us, for He has written our names on the palm of His hand. (Isaiah 49:16) John’s Gospel introduces Jesus as the Good Shepherd, caring for each of His sheep in a deeply personal way. “The sheep hear his voice and come to him; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) What a powerful thing to realize that this invitation from God—through His Son Jesus Christ—comes to each of us so individually. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine God calling you gently and sincerely by name. You are a child of God… and you matter.
Interestingly, our holy invitation does not direct us to God’s house, although we do visit there every Sunday. But our connection to God takes place within our own hearts. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God abides in us; and for our faith to flourish, we have to let God in. There’s a famous depiction of Jesus standing outside a door… but there is no doorknob on the outside. It is based on the Scripture from Revelations 3:20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” God respects our free will. Jesus will not enter unless we let Him in. He is always there, waiting for us, but it is up to us to open the door.
Our invitation from God is for NOW. Today. Right when you finish reading this blog post. It is a daily call to keep Jesus with us always. God should be invited into every moment of our day. If this is still too vague or overwhelming to contemplate, then look for ways to make it more specific. Plan “dates” to be with God. Set aside a few minutes each morning to pray or read Scripture. Attend a Lenten retreat. Take advantage of any spiritual programs offered by your parish. Spend some time in silence each day.
WHAT TO BRING
All you need to bring is an open heart. A willingness to let God in. A desire to be connected to God in all that you do and say. A willingness to live out the teachings of Jesus in your words and actions. Jesus tell us: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4)
My prayer for you this Lenten season is that you accept God’s invitation. That you remain connected to the Vine as we await the promise of our Savior on Easter Sunday. That you live in God’s love just as God lives in you. Amen.